The first Wreck-It Ralph was a surprising movie, a perfect example of an animated film that rises above its genre, that both children and adults will appreciate. It had moments that brought me to tears and was full of cleverness. We’re six years later and the sequel has arrived, with giant shoes to fill. Does this sequel succeed?
Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his pal Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are living a nice calm life. Every day they each play their parts in the arcade video games in which they live and then at night, they travel throughout different games and have adventures. Ralph is fine with this life but Vanellope wants something more, so she’s quite excited when the arcade is connected to WiFi and the entire internet is now at their disposal.
The timing is perfect, as Vanellope’s game is broken down and all of her other race buddies are now homeless. The only way to fix this is to find a new steering wheel for the game on a mysterious website called eBay, so Ralph and Vanellope travel into the internet to find and bring back this steering wheel.
They’re assisted along the way by a master of the YouTube algorithm named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) and a dangerous car thief named Shank (Gal Gadot). Friends from the arcade Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch) are also featured. Vanellope also crosses paths with the entirety of Disney’s Princess lineup, all voiced by their original voice actresses.
This sequel manages to take a few things that worked from the original and capitalizes on them here. In the first film, there were plenty of “Wait, pause, go back” moments where you would discover little easter eggs throughout the film. Here, they double down on that. Every scene feels like a “Where’s Waldo?” moment crammed full of references. The first film was just video game focused, where here it’s the entire world of pop culture. Every Disney (and Marvel and Star Wars and Pixar) property is on full display here, meaning you can rewatch a scene over and over and discover something new.
The Disney Princesses are one of the best utilized cameos, getting a decent-sized sequence and delivering plenty of laughs. And the fact that they’re voiced by the original actresses is just icing on the cake.
As the lead characters, John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman once again deliver great performances. Silverman seems to be trying a little too hard to sound like a little girl, so the voice is a little grating, but Reilly’s Ralph is just as lovable as the first time around.
What doesn’t work?
While the jokes and references are everywhere, it seems like Disney went for a quantity over quality attitude. These cameos and jokes are all one-off and meant for a quick laugh and then we move on. The original film had a heart to it that this movie lacks. There is a message that the movie tried to convey about growing up and moving on and finding out about yourself but it felt a little too heavy-handed to really work. Nothing here holds a candle to the moment when Ralph breaks Vanellope’s racecar in the first film, a punch to the stomach kind of moment. Here, it’s all fairly superficial.
I wouldn’t necessarily mind the jokes, if they landed. Instead, most of the jokes feel off or mishandled. I hardly laughed, though I might’ve nodded and thought to myself, “Hmm, that’s clever.” It definitely veered to a younger audience and felt more like The Emoji Movie than I would’ve preferred.
Yet the movie also felt way above children’s heads. Do you think children understand the algorithm for how videos are monetized on YouTube? I hardly understand it. So the movie tries to crack a thousand jokes a minute about something that kids probably have no interest in. It’s a strange duality.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is a fun time but lacks the heart of its predecessor. The jokes land sometimes in a constant onslaught of clever wordplay or references to the world of technology. Children might love this movie but have no idea what’s happening in it, so this movie falls in a weird middle range for me. The original film was a masterpiece, this one feels more like a DVD you might buy the kids and they watch it once.